As captain of Australia’s National Wheelchair Basketball team at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Georgia Munro-Cook saw first-hand how inequalities can aggregate, manifesting in unfair outcomes that cut across gender and ability.
She is now putting that understanding into practice by being appointed a Research Fellow at Griffith University’s Inclusive Futures: Reimagining Disabilities Beacon.
“I’m passionate about so many issues regarding disability and also how the gender issue fits into the disability narrative and am incredibly proud to be part of Griffith’s exciting new research beacon in this important space.”
Dr Munro-Cook has a unique perspective after playing able-bodied basketball until the age of 18, then receiving a congenital hip disorder diagnosis called hip dysplasia, that would eventually interfere with her mobility.
“I loved playing basketball and didn’t want to stop playing team sports, then someone suggested I should try wheelchair basketball and I quickly fell in love with it,” she said.
Dr Munro-Cook competed at the 2018 world championship in Hamburg, the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, and travelled to England, Thailand and China as a professional athlete.
“Our team noticed an obvious sliding scale of prominence given to men’s able-bodied sports first and foremost, then women’s sports, then men’s wheelchair teams and then the women’s wheelchair teams are at the bottom,” she said.
“It feels like you’re at the bottom of the totem pole and everyone in my team is conscious of it and wants to change it.
“Whenever people come to watch wheelchair basketball they’re always blown away by the excitement of the game and thrilling atmosphere, and I think wheelchair basketball has a great deal of potential.”
As part of the Beacon, Dr Munro-Cook will lend her lived-experience to the Play project, responding to the growing disparity in health outcomes for people living with disability.
“I’m really interested in the gender issues involved in the Women’s Professional Basketball,” she said.
“There’s an intersection between gender and disability where women living with a disability are feeling particularly excluded from society.”
Dr Munro-Cook said this disparity is reflected in Wheelchair Basketball where women with a disability are fighting to be acknowledged as professional athletes.
“Women with a disability are being ignored and left out of the equation and we’re looking at how that’s occurring and how we can improve the situation within organisations,” she said.
Dr Munro-Cook authored a paper called Skin in the Game: Affect, Materiality, and the WNBA Arena, which looked at how the physical attributes of a sporting game can be either ‘professional and exciting, or lackluster and limiting’.
Modelling greatness for Dr Munro-Cook is her father, Murray Cook, also known as ‘The Red Wiggle’, who took a path less traversed as a professional musician and was an original member of the most popular children’s group the world has ever known.
As a role model herself, Dr Georgia Munro-Cook is exceptional and continues to push the envelope on increasing participation in competitive sports, but she is also passionate about inclusion and diversity in workplaces.
“If employers value people’s knowledge, they should be willing to be flexible and accommodate a variety of diverse needs in the workplace,” she said.
“Recognise that being flexible is important and give people a chance to prove what they know.”